Criterion Channel is celebrating the new year with ’70s Sci-Fi, which is right up my alley. It’s even more fascinating to realize that these futuristic movies are fifty years old. How far have we come over the decades, how much do we have to overcome? But, also, how close are we to the self-destruction that these movies prophesied?
I’ve seen some of the eighteen movies presented this month before, but they were the obvious choices like A Clockwork Orange and Mad Max. I didn’t start my viewing in chronological order, instead beginning with 1975’s A Boy and His Dog.
The movie takes place in the ruined, desert landscape of the old world and the first thing I noticed was how trashy that landscape is. This isn’t the barren desert of the Mad Max films. This is a garbage desert, with cans and plastic and debris everywhere. It really is a gross place to live.
Which is actually fitting, because A Boy and His Dog is a pretty gross movie. The “boy”, Vic (or Albert, depending on the dog) looks like he’s in his late twenties. And he’s as low as you can get. His only goal in the movie is to find a lady and get laid, with permission or not. And his dog, Blood, is there to help him achieve the goal. After all, they share a psychic connection, with Tim McIntire voicing the dog, and with quite a bit of dialog, throughout.
Though the only sex in the movie comes across as consensual, Vic has plenty of other qualities that make him unpleasant. He’s an idiot, for one. And he’s a jerk to the dog, but maybe that’s the point. The dog is so loyal that he stays with this dumb, grotesque man-child through thick and thin. There’s no redemption arc for Vic. It’s not that type of movie.
Blood actually has a character arc. While Vic is too dumb to truly change, Blood has to make some hard choices. Does he stay with Vic as they go underground, even though it’s hard to defend and possibly the home to radioactive mutants? Does he stay with Vic as he brings his newfound girlfriend, Quilla, into their lives? Does he stay with Vic as he seeks revenge from his newfound girlfriend’s betrayal? And, when Vic goes “Downunder”, will Blood stay and wait for Vic to return? Even if Vic might not return?
Vic’s adventures Downunder are where the movie started to look it’s low budget. A desert is a desert and looks the same no matter the cash on hand. But, the same goes for a high school auditorium and a golf course, for mostly ill effect. No amount of lighting or prop placement will make them look any different. Maybe that’s the point, thought? After all, the society Downunder is a strange one. Everyone is in mime makeup and follows strict behavior rules, but outside of that, it doesn’t look like there’s too much going on down there. I guess they have robots?
Vic’s lust gets the better of him as he was led down there by Quilla to help repopulate the Downunder, though not the way he was hoping. I think I could have lived my whole life and ten more without ever seeing that semen extracting scene and been all the better for it. When Quilla becomes dissatisfied with life Downunder, she frees Vic and the two make their way to the top. But, they also fight a smiling mine robot.
The ending, with Blood’s choice over waiting or not for Vic, should hit most dog lovers. Even as dumb as Vic is and as fed up with him as Blood gets, a dog can’t leave his boy, no matter how old they are (we’re talking Chris O’Donnell as Robin old-boy here). And, while still a gross idiot, Vic must decided if he’ll show the same loyalty or go off with Quilla.
The big issue I have with the movie, besides the general grossness of it all, is that no one is worth rooting for. Oh, sure, a dog is a dog. But, when Blood talks, he’s a bit too much of a curmudgeon. Though that might be endearing to some, coming from a little shaggy dog like him. But Vic is loathsome. Maybe we should cheer for him at the end, but I couldn’t care less if he lived or died out there in the wastes.
And, like I said, it’s not that type of movie anyway. I can’t say I liked A Boy and His Dog. But, it’s weird and obscene and held my attention. I won’t say it’s a bad movie. But, like Quilla, it’s an acquired taste. You can see the origins of The Road Warrior in it. The first half shows some gonzo society that enslaves people to dig for canned food, but also still has a working grindhouse theater. That’s our future.